Hands-on With the Dell XPS 13 Ultrabook

Subject: Mobile | January 11, 2012 - 11:00 AM |
Tagged: xps, ultrabook, dell, CES

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There are many ultrabooks, but not all of them are given a specific introduction by Intel’s CEO, Paul Otellini. That honor was reserved for Dell’s new XPS 13 during Tuesday's Intel keynote. So what’s so special about it?

To find out, we meet with Dell representatives packing not only the new XPS 13 but also a number of competing ultrabooks. One of the main points that Dell made during the Intel keynote was that the XPS 13’s Gorilla Glass display allows for thin bezels, in turn reducing overall display size and allowing for a reduction in the laptop’s dimensions. Though it has a 13” display, it is much smaller than many other thin laptops such as the MacBook Air and the ASUS UX31.

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The use of Gorilla Glass combined with the XPS 13’s machined aluminum lid creates a rigid structure. Some ultrabooks available today have problems with display flex, as Dell demonstrated with a Toshiba Protégé ultrabook they brought along. Another smart decision is the XPS 13’s display hinge, which is nearly as wide as the chassis. A large hinge such as this reduces display wobble, a problem that can occur when typing on some ultrabooks.

The bottom of the XPS 13 is made of carbon fiber covered with soft-touch paint. I asked Dell’s representatives if the entire bottom of the chassis was carbon fiber, something I doubted due to reasons of cost. They insisted that it was. 

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Using carbon fiber of course saves weight, but in this case it isn’t used to provide an ultrabook that is lighter than anything else on the market. At about 3 pounds, the XPS 13 is only on par with the competition. Instead, the weight savings appears to have been re-invested in the use of sturdier materials, such as the wide hinge that I mentioned earlier.

Open the XPS 13 and you’ll be introduced to a black interior coated in soft touch paint identical the bottom of the chassis. The contrast between the interior and the silver aluminum creates a complimentary aesthetic that reminds me of a tuxedo. Using the soft touch paint also gives the laptop a warmer, more inviting feel. I am a little worried that the paint will end up absorbing oils from your hands over time, but it looks and feels great when new. 

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As for the keyboard, well – it’s average. It uses plastic keys with a semi-touch coat in the typical island style, creating the laptop’s least attractive feature. Mind you, key feel is okay and there’s nothing functionally wrong, but I do think flatter keys with a completely matte finish would have been more appropriate. Backlighting is standard and turns on automatically when the webcam detects a low-light environment. Quality was a bit hard to judge during my time with the device because we were in a brightly lit area. 

Touchpad quality struck me as excellent. It’s large and integrates the left/right buttons into the touchpad itself. Materials match the surrounding palmrest in color. I had only a few chances to try multi-touch scrolling, but it seemed to work well.

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Standard equipment includes a Core i5 low-voltage processor and a 128GB solid state drive. As a result, the laptop boots within about 10 seconds and can resume in between 1 and 2 seconds. These are not Dell’s official claims, but rather what I observed personally. Display resolution is the standard 1366x768. I can’t say much about quality as I didn’t have the chance to view test images. 

Dell has included a 47Wh battery in the XPS 13, which should provide up to 9 hours of battery life. This claim is made during testing with WiFi off and should be viewed as a best-case scenario. I anticipate that we’ll see about 6 hours of life during standard usage with WiFi on. If the XPS 13 can manage that, it will be above average for the category. 

Pricing starts at $999, which is less than I expected given the quality of this device. Because ultrabooks all have extremely similar hardware it is traits like design and battery life that will distinguish the winners from the losers. From my brief time with the XPS 13, it seems Dell may have one of the winners. I will be looking to grab a review unit over the next few weeks so the laptop can be tested in full.

PC Perspective's CES 2012 coverage is sponsored by MSI Computer.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!

Source: Dell

Shocking news! Intel is talking up Ultrabooks at CES

Subject: General Tech, Shows and Expos | January 10, 2012 - 08:50 AM |
Tagged: CES, Intel, ultrabook, Ivy Bridge

It might be hard to believe but the form factor everyone loves to talk about is on the lips on Intel reps everywhere at CES including the GM of the PC Group, Mooly Eden.   The new ultra-thin form factor introduced by Intel this follows the design theory of the Macbook Air while trying to stay a PC at heart and has been received with mixed feelings.  While it is nice to have an ultra-thin, ultra-light machine which is capable of running office productivity tasks at a good level of performance the attached price tag has discouraged potential distributors and buyers alike; the under $1000 specification cannot be reached without sacrificing quality.  That is in part do to the materials used to make an ultrathin laptop that is still rigid enough to stand up to normal usage and in part to the philosophy of 'instant on' which requires an SSD to be used as the main storage medium.  Eden tells The Inquirer that he sees Windows 8 offering huge potential to the ultrabook thanks to its touchscreen friendly design.  He describes devices similar to the ASUS Transformer, a product usable as a touch device like a tablet but with a full keyboard available for when you are doing more than just surfing the web.   New Ivy Bridge internals will probably help as well, bringing increased performance and lowered power usage, though probably not doing anything good to the sticker price. 

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"CHIPMAKER Intel gave its attention at the CES conference to promoting the real-world benefits of ultrabooks.

The company highlighted a design and marketing effort to shift its focus from benchmarks and statistics to examples of real-world capabilities and applications that will be improved by what it hopes will become a growing ultrabook market."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

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PC Perspective's CES 2012 coverage is sponsored by MSI Computer.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!

Source: The Inquirer

CES 2012 Day 2 Podcast - 1/9/12

Subject: Editorial, Shows and Expos | January 10, 2012 - 01:45 AM |
Tagged: ultrabook, Transformer, spectre, podcast, memo, Intel, hp, envy, CES, asus

PC Perspective CES 2012 Day 2 - 1/9/12

Join us tonight as we talk about our second full day of CES 2012 - including Digital Experience, ASUS, more from OCZ, Thermaltake and more!!

You can subscribe to us through iTunes and you can still access it directly through the RSS page HERE.

The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!

  • iTunes - Subscribe to the podcast directly through the iTunes Store
  • RSS - Subscribe through your regular RSS reader
  • MP3 - Direct download link to the MP3 file

Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Josh Walrath, Matt Smith and Allyn Malventano

PC Perspective's CES 2012 coverage is sponsored by MSI Computer.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!

HP Envy 14 Spectre Offers Glass Design, We Go Hands-on

Subject: Mobile | January 9, 2012 - 10:42 PM |
Tagged: ultrabook, hp, envy, CES

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It’s raining ultrabooks at CES. Unfortunately, this makes it difficult for any individual manufacturer to stand out from the crowd. There was one that caught our eye, however – the HP Envy 14 Spectre.

We’ll go in to the specifications in a moment because they’re not what separate the Spectre from the crowd. It’s the design that commands attention. Instead of using an aluminum lid like most competitors HP decided to use lightweight black glass. This instantly distinguishes the laptop from anything else on the market. While most ultrabooks look like MacBook Air clones, the Spectre is unique at first glance.

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UPDATE: We have a video walkthrough of the new HP Envy 14 Spectre Ultrabook for you!

You’d think scratches would be a concern, but the scratch-resistant glass used on the lid appears reasonably tough. In fact, it will likely prove more durable than plastic (which tends to scratch) or aluminum (which tends to dent). The only unavoidable issue will be smudging. The floor model had more than a few fingerprints on it. 

Once opened, the Envy 14 reveals a more conventional silver metallic (the palmrest is glass-covered, but remains a metallic silver color) interior similar to the rest of the Envy line. A Beats Audio analog volume knob (along with Beats Audio speakers) ties it in with the new Envy 15 and 17. 

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Although just 20mm (.78) thin, the Envy 14 Spectre seems to offer keyboard feel on par with its larger and thicker cousins without sacrificing the backlight. There’s also a ton of palmrest space and a large touchpad. Multi-touch gestures are among the smoothest available on a Windows laptop. Perhaps the only downside is weight. At 3.79 pounds, it is noticeably heavier than most competitors. While this contributes to the laptop’s luxurious feel it could reduce the convenience of on-the-go use.

HP plans to ship the Envy 14 with Core i5 and i7 low-voltage processors, 4GB or 8GB of RAM, and 128GB or 256GB solid state hard drives. A 1600x900 display will be standard. Also included is an NFC chip that will allow for short-range wireless sharing. It’s not a stretch to speculate it could also eventually work with the wireless payment features Intel showed during this morning’s ultrabook conference.

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Battery life is projected to be 9 hours, and while this will no doubt end up being generous, it’s far better than the 6 hour estimates given by most competitors. Battery size may be the reason for the extra weight.

The Envy 14 Spectre will be on sale in February or March at an introductory price of $1399. That’s a lot of money, but initial impressions suggest that laptop is worth the price of admission. Quality is quite possibly better than the MacBook Air. If the display and performance proves to be as good as promised this pricey laptop could be a hit.  

PC Perspective's CES 2012 coverage is sponsored by MSI Computer.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!

Source: HP

CES 2012 Day 1 Podcast - 1/8/2012

Subject: Editorial | January 8, 2012 - 11:34 PM |
Tagged: podcast, CES, Intel, amd, nvidia, ocz, ssd, thunderbolt, hdd, Lenovo, laptop, ultrabook

PC Perspective CES 2012 Day 1 - 1/8/2012

Join us tonight as we talk about our first day of CES 2012 - including Storage Visions, CES Unveiled and more!

You can subscribe to us through iTunes and you can still access it directly through the RSS page HERE.

The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!

  • iTunes - Subscribe to the podcast directly through the iTunes Store
  • RSS - Subscribe through your regular RSS reader
  • MP3 - Direct download link to the MP3 file

Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Josh Walrath, Matt Smith and Allyn Malventano

PC Perspective's CES 2012 coverage is sponsored by MSI Computer.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!

Source:

CES 2012 Day 0 Podcast - 1/7/2012

Subject: Editorial, General Tech | January 7, 2012 - 11:20 PM |
Tagged: ultrabook, podcast, nvidia, Intel, CES, amd

PC Perspective CES 2012 Day 0 - 1/7/2012

Join us tonight as we talk about our CES predictions for this year, from Las Vegas!

You can subscribe to us through iTunes and you can still access it directly through the RSS page HERE.

The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!

  • iTunes - Subscribe to the podcast directly through the iTunes Store
  • RSS - Subscribe through your regular RSS reader
  • MP3 - Direct download link to the MP3 file

Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Josh Walrath, Matt Smith and Allyn Malventano

PC Perspective's CES 2012 coverage is sponsored by MSI Computer.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!

Lenovo Unveils ThinkPad Ultrabook, ARM-Powered Laptop Ahead of CES

Subject: Mobile | January 4, 2012 - 10:00 PM |
Tagged: ultrabook, Thinkpad, news, Lenovo, edge, CES

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Were you thinking about an ultrabook, but worried that the ones already available just weren’t tough enough? Lenovo has you covered. They’ve taken the wraps off the Lenovo ThinkPad T430u, which blends thin design with durability.

This isn’t exactly new territory for Lenovo, has the company already offered the ThinkPad X1, an extremely thin laptop that we reviewed in the summer of 2011. Lenovo has also long offered the T420s, an thin-and-light version of the already thin-and-light T series. The new 430u has a 14” display and will be starting at just $849, a surprisingly low price for a ThinkPad branded ultrabook.

Specifications include third-generation Intel Core processors, optional Nvidia discrete graphics, mechanical and SSD storage options, battery life of up to six hours and an island-style keyboard similar to the ThinkPad X1. Thickness will be no more than .8 inches and weight will be under four pounds.

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Another interesting debut is the ThinkPad X1 Hybrid. Based off the current X1, it includes a feature not yet seen in consumer PC laptops - an dual-core ARM processor built by Qualcomm. Don't get too excited yet, because the ARM processor doesn't run Windows. That task is left to a typical Intel x86 processor. It does, however, run a secondary operating system called Instant Media Mode that allows users to access the web, watch videos and perform other basic tasks. Lenovo claims that using IMM instead of Windows allows for 10 hours of life on the X1's realtively small battery. Owning such an exotic piece of hardware will cost you - the X1 Hybrid starts at a lofty $1599.

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Other new ThinkPad offerings include the Edge S430, a “premium” laptop stating at $749 that will offer a 14” display and Thunderbolt connectivity as well as third-gen Intel processors and optional Nvidia graphics. It also comes in a color we haven't seen yet in ThinkPads - Mocha Black. I'm not sure how this differs from regular black, but it makes me want a coffee. 

Smaller still are the Edge E130 and E330, 11.6" and 13.3" laptops that fill out the small half of the new Edge line-up. Those looking for a more mainstream option will be able to consider the Edge E430/E435/E530/E535, a series of laptops starting at $549. They will be available not only in the Intel/Nvidia combination but also with AMD Fusion APUs (Lenovo designates the AMD models by ending the model number with a 5). There's also a new color to choose from, Cobalt Blue, while the old Midnight Black and Heatwave Red options remain.

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If even that is too expensive, you’ll be able to grab the ThinkPad B480/B580, which start at $499 and offer “essential computing.”

The new ThinkPad ultrabook and X1 Hybrid are sure to be hot topics at CES, not only because they're ThinkPads (which always get geeks salivating) but also because they offer some interesting features are affordable prices. We'll be sure to publish any new information we learn about these products once the show begins. 

PC Perspective's CES 2012 coverage is sponsored by MSI Computer

Source: Lenovo

The Ultrabook promises to be really big ... in about a year

Subject: General Tech | November 10, 2011 - 09:16 AM |
Tagged: ultrabook, Intel, asus, acer

Ah, the Ultrabook; Intel's attempt to meet Apple on its own territory and playing by Apple's established rules.  Since there has been so much news and speculation about the new ultramobile platform from Intel some of the information we have been given has degraded into noise.  The original run was very limited, with about 50,000 units ordered by the major manufactures like ASUS.  There seems to have been a second order placed with a much more respectable quarter million units requested by ASUS and Acer, though we don't know about the other players.  However with the products launch resembling an attempt at flight by an under-powered, yet aerodynamically shaped chunk of metal these numbers have been reduced to under 200,000.  DigiTimes predicts that this time next year the Ultrabook might be significantly more attractive, not just because of Ivy Bridge but also because of the release of Windows 8 which seems almost custom built for the Ultrabook.

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"Asustek Computer and Acer have recently reduced their ultrabook orders from 250,000-300,000 units originally to 150,000-180,000 units by the end of 2011 due to the unsatisfactory sales during the initial month after their launch, according to sources from upstream ODMs.

Currently, Asustek is offering four Zenbook series ultrabook models in the retail channel, priced between NT$36,000-49,000 (US$1,194-1,625), while Acer is competing with its S3 series models with prices at NT$31,500-42,000. Because global notebook demand still has not yet seen any recovery, ultrabooks, which have a rather higher price range compared to mainstream models, did not see as strong sales as expected, causing Acer and Asustek to both drop their product orders by 40%."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

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Source: DigiTimes

ASUS may be out of HDDs but they are not out of tablets

Subject: General Tech | November 1, 2011 - 09:11 AM |
Tagged: asus, netbook, tablet, ultrabook

ASUS seems to be sitting in a very nice place in the market, with several flavours of 'killer' products, so that which ever ends up winning the form factor battle ASUS will come out with a profit.  In this high tech game of rock, paper, scissors we have The Ultrabook, with their newly released Zenbook, The Netbook, their Eee series being the best known and The Tablet, being that nice looking Eee Pad Transformer.  They even still sell laptops for those who prefer to exercise their arms and core.  Which ever form factor becomes dominant ASUS already has a model out now, with new ones on the way, which explains the 11% growth in profit they recorded this quarter.

One major benefit ASUS has with these smaller form factors is that they all use flash memory for long term storage.  With the devastation hitting Thailand as flood waters cover homes and businesses, the tech world also watches the stocks of platter based HDDs plummet.  In fact ASUS reported to The Inquirer that they expect to be out of hard drives by the end of the month.  That will only effect the larger form factors, ASUS may still hit the 1.8 million tablets shipped target that they are aiming for by the end of 2011.

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"ASUS managed a slight increase in profit for the third quarter of this year, despite the global slowdown in PC sales.

ASUS is still shipping notebooks, but has also been strong in netbooks and has launched its own fondleslab range, all siblings to its popular Eee PC netbook, led by the Eee Pad Transformer, but to eventually include the Eee Memo, Slider and Slate."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

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Source: The Register

An actual ASUS Ultrabook review

Subject: General Tech | October 31, 2011 - 03:27 PM |
Tagged: zenbook, ux31, ultrabook, asus

Finally a reviewer has managed to get their hands on an Ultrabook; The Tech Report gives the low down on ASUS' Zenbook UX31 in their lateset article.  It is every bit as pretty as the pictures implied and is not too bad looking on the inside with a Core i5-2557M, 4GB DDR3-1333 on Intel's QS67 chipset with a 128GB Adata XM11 SSD for storage with the 1600x900 TN display powered by the SandyBridge processors onboard graphics engine.  Interestingly, The Tech Report finds its physical characteristics to match or beat the 13" Macbook Air, which costs $200 more so perhaps there is hope for this form factor.  Throughout the review are the inevitable comparisons to Apple, who have already mastered this form factor, as well as mention of the soon to be available IvyBridge books which should be about half the price.

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"The first 13" ultrabook from Asus looks extremely tantalizing on paper—not to mention visually. Is it as good as it seems, and is it worth the $1,099 asking price?"

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